Etymology Tuesday

I’m starting Etymology Tuesdays in order to indulge my love of language (especially its roots) and to give little tantalizing bits of my novel (in progress) away by giving the histories of three words that are relevant to what I’m writing.

Today I’m going to start with Dragon.

Here’s the Online Etymological Dictionary’s history of the word.

Dragon: early 13c., from O.Fr. dragon, from L. draconem (nom. draco) “huge serpent, dragon,” from Gk. drakon (gen. drakontos) “serpent, giant seafish,” apparently from drak-, strong aorist stem of derkesthai “to see clearly,” from PIE *derk- “to see.” Perhaps the lit. sense is “the one with the (deadly) glance.” The young are dragonets (14c.). Obsolete drake”dragon” is an older borrowing of the same word.

This little history makes me particularly happy since I hadn’t looked it up before I started writing, but I had given my dragons some ability to “see clearly” some things that are happening very far away from them. Since I’m a bit of a word nerd, it makes me happy that my twist on dragons still falls in line with their traditional existence.

Next shade, as in a phantom or ghost, also from the OnlineED.

Shade: O.E. sceadu “shade, shadow, darkness,” also “shady place, protection from glare or heat,” from P.Gmc. *skadwo (cf. O.S. skado, M.Du. scade, Du. schaduw, O.H.G. scato, Ger.Schatten, Goth. skadus), from PIE *skotwa, from root *skot- “dark, shade” (cf. Gk. skotos “darkness,” Alb. kot “darkness,” O.Ir. scath, O.Welsh scod, Bret. squeut “darkness”). Meaning “grade of color” first recorded 1680s (cf. Fr. nuance, from nue “cloud”). Meaning “ghost” is from 1610s. Sense of “window blind” first recorded 1867, Amer.Eng.

This one isn’t quite as exciting since the meaning of “shade” that I’m using didn’t come around until fairly recently. On the other hand, these ghosts, aren’t ghosts in the normal sense.  They were a group of very powerful people who deliberately removed their archipelago from the normal flow of space and time and lost their physicality as a result. So the idea of them being a shade of human (like the color meaning) appeals to me.

Last, but not least, vivisect (once again, OnlineED).

Vivisect: 1859, back formation from vivisection. Related: Vivisected; vivisecting.
Vivisection: “dissection of a living animal,” 1707, from L. vivus “alive” (see vivid) + (dis)section (see section).

This last one is a big theme in my novel, as the wizard likes to do this to people to see what makes them work. It’s a good word, and a horrible thing to have done to you or someone you love.

Hope you enjoyed these words! More to come next Tuesday.


~ by lamichaud on July 17, 2012.

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